Wilton Library and Wilton Historical Society will delve into the history of some of the most influential American tycoons for the scholarly lecture series titled “Tycoons: Bane or Benefactors?” This is the fifteenth year of collaboration between the two organizations to present the special five-part series. Each lecture will be held virtually on Zoom on Sunday afternoons, beginning on February 27, from 4 to 5 p.m., with every session requiring a separate registration.
“We are very pleased to partner with Wilton Historical Society for our fifteenth collaboration. This is an engaging and educational lecture series that explores and asks important questions about the role of tycoons in American society, and we encourage the community to attend these special programs,” said Michael Bellacosa, Community Engagement Manager of Wilton Library.
“This five-part series is informative and thought-provoking, and it encourages us to ponder the relationship between our country’s leading capitalists and society as a whole,” agreed Kim Mellin, Co-Director of Wilton Historical Society.
The five lectures will be held virtually on Zoom and hosted by either Wilton Library or Wilton Historical Society as follows:
Sunday, February 27, 4 – 5 p.m.
“The bank is trying to kill me, but I will kill it!”: Nicholas Biddle’s War with Andrew Jackson – Dr. Matthew Warshauer
During this kick-off program, Dr. Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History at Central
Connecticut State University, will discuss the battle between President Andrew Jackson and financier Nicholas Biddle over the fate of the Second Bank of the United States. The Bank War of 1832 rocked the American political system and the economy. Was the Bank of the United States the many-headed hydra that Jackson warned about, or was he just plain crazy? Dr. Warshauer completed his Ph.D. (1997) in American Studies at Saint Louis University. He joined the faculty at CCSU in the fall of 1997 and served as editor of Connecticut History from 2003 to 2011. In 2015 he received a Connecticut Preservation Trust Award for saving and relocating an important Civil War monument (the Forlorn Soldier) to the State Capitol and was recognized by both the governor and the General Assembly for his efforts on behalf of Connecticut in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the state's role in the Civil War. Dr. Warshauer's book publications include: Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law; Andrew Jackson in Context; Connecticut in the American Civil War; and Inside Connecticut and the Civil War: Essays on One State's Struggles. The moderator is Stephen Hudspeth. This program is sponsored by Mary Gail and Jerry Gristina and hosted virtually by Wilton Library.
Sunday, March 6, 4 – 5 p.m.
J.P. Morgan: An American Aristocrat – Susan Berfield
During this program, Susan Berfield will discuss J.P. Morgan, the most influential financier of the Gilded Age. He wasn’t the richest, but that didn’t matter; he was commanding in a way none could match. He had an aristocrat’s disdain for public sentiment and the conviction that his actions were to the country’s advantage, no explanations necessary. We’ll examine those actions and the legacy of “the boss of bosses.” Susan Berfield is an award-winning investigative reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg News where she has covered some of America's largest corporations. She has been interviewed on PBS NewsHour, NPR's All Things Considered, Marketplace, On Point, and elsewhere. The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism was the winner of the 2021 Theodore Roosevelt Association Book Prize, a finalist for the Presidential Leadership Book Award, and an Amazon Best Book of the Year. The moderator is Stephen Hudspeth. This program is sponsored by Sue Sherwood and hosted virtually by Wilton Historical Society.
Sunday, March 13, 4 – 5 p.m.
Henry Ford’s Borrowed Humanity: How the Same Man Lifted and Then Lost America – Julie Fenster
During this program, Julie Fenster will discuss Henry Ford, possibly the first American tycoon who was considered "beloved" but who turned darker in the years after the success of the famous Model T. During the first ten years of Model T production, 1908-1918, Henry Ford was a homegrown hero to the working class. He offered a sturdy car at an affordable price, an astonishing feat at the time. Moreover, as the Model T became wildly popular and demand increased, the price went down -- by a wide margin nearly every year. A businessman wasn’t supposed to do that. Next, Henry Ford was credited with suddenly raising wages for his workers to a minimum of five dollars per day. The $5 Day upended centuries of accepted economic theory because it gave workers far more than the going rate. A businessman wasn’t supposed to do that, either. Due to the $5 Day, Henry Ford was regarded as an unwelcome radical by big business, but as a favorite by everyone else. In fact, he was very probably the first tycoon in American history who could be described as "beloved." After the first decade of the Model T,
though, Ford became a darker and yet darker presence, fanning Fascism and anti-Semitism, while provoking bitter labor disputes at his company. It became sadly apparent that Henry Ford’s success in the economics of benevolence had never really been his. The liberal thinking in business, the revolutionary ideas and populist attitudes had all come from someone else: James Couzens. He was forced out of Ford Motor in 1919 and on either side of his departure lay before-and-after pictures of Henry Ford as a hero of the people. Julie M. Fenster is an author and historian. She has written many books on the American story, including two with a direct relationship to Connecticut: the award-winning Ether Day, which describes the uncoordinated efforts of Horace Wells of Hartford and two men from Boston in developing the first surgical anesthetic; and the New York Times bestseller Parish Priest, a biography of Father Michael McGivney, who founded the Knights of Columbus in New Haven. The moderator is Stephen Hudspeth. This program is sponsored by Moira and Kevin Craw and hosted virtually by Wilton Historical Society.
Sunday, April 3, 4 – 5 p.m.
Mark Zuckerberg: Poster Child for Promise and Peril in the Tech Sector – Dr. Drew Harris
In this program, Professor Drew Harris will discuss Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. "College drop-out becomes a billionaire” is the story of great hope for many would-be entrepreneurs. His flagship product, Facebook, has provided vital social connections for billions of people, but it is also at the heart of public controversies ranging from exploitation of personal data to rapid, widespread dissemination of false information and conspiracy paranoia. At the launch into the Metaverse (the latest Zuckerberg venture), let’s take stock of Zuckerberg, his leadership as a tech tycoon, and the consequences for business and society. Drew Harris, Ph.D., Professor of Management & Organization teaches entrepreneurship, business strategy, and leadership. He leads the CCSU entrepreneurship program. Previously, Dr. Harris taught at the Stern School of Business at New York University, Teacher's College at Columbia University, the College of Business and Economics at Longwood University and the College of Business Administration at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Before his career in higher education, Drew was owner and president of HAAS Partners, Ltd., a management consulting firm, and held positions related to information systems at Arthur Young & Company, Morris Decision Systems, Harper & Row, and Digital Systems of Florida. He and his wife, Teresa Twomey, currently provide consulting and training on improving organizational performance and success for new and established firms. The moderator is Max Gabrielson. This program is sponsored by Elaine Tai-Lauria and Phil Lauria and hosted virtually by Wilton Library.
Sunday, April 24, 4 – 5 p.m.
The Perils of Great Men, Business, Ideology, and Questions about Capitalism – Dr. Matthew Warshauer
In the final "capstone" lecture of the series, Dr. Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, will pull together some of the important questions raised by the series’ speakers. All center around the role of “tycoons” in American society, whether their visions for business correspond with benefits to workers and the people. In essence, do the nation’s leading capitalists “owe” anything to society? Dr. Warshauer completed his Ph.D. (1997) in American Studies at Saint Louis University. He joined the faculty at CCSU in the fall of 1997 and served as editor of Connecticut
History from 2003 to 2011. In 2015 he received a Connecticut Preservation Trust Award for saving and relocating an important Civil War monument (the Forlorn Soldier) to the State Capitol and was recognized by both the governor and the General Assembly for his efforts on behalf of Connecticut in commemorating the 150th anniversary of the state's role in the Civil War. Dr. Warshauer's book publications include: Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law; Andrew Jackson in Context; Connecticut in the American Civil War; and Inside Connecticut and the Civil War: Essays on One State's Struggles.
The moderator is Max Gabrielson. This program is sponsored by Nancy and Bill Brautigam and hosted virtually by Wilton Library.
Additional information about each lecture is posted on the library’s website at www.wiltonlibrary.org, along with the registration links. Registration is required for each individual lecture. Zoom invitation links will be sent to registrants in advance of the programs. There is no charge to attend; however, a $10 suggested donation may be made to the hosting institution directly from the individual registration pages.